“THE INFLUENCER”: A Review

What’s the absolute worst thing an influencer can hear?  Apparently, it’s “You are totally and completely culturally irrelevant!”

Believe it or not, the word “influencer” has actually been around since the mid-1600’s.  In recent times, however, the term has taken on a more specific definition.  It is believed that “influencer” became a “legitimate” job title circa 2016.  And, it can be a job as profitable as it is legitimate: With some of the highest paid celebrities getting as much as $1 million a post– thanks to their millions of followers– it’s “nice work if you can get it”, as the song goes.  The titular character of Meghan Weinstein’s fast-moving, highly original comedic thriller The Influencer is 29-year old Californian Abbie Rose.  As played by real-life influencer and actor Kasia Szarek, the busty and blonde Abbie is indeed a larger-than-life character: big hair, big lips, big personality, and a big online presence: She has a lot of followers who eagerly await for her videos and photos on “Photopost”, the movie’s obvious takeoff on Instagram.  Abbie summarizes the deceptively simple essence of being an influencer when she declares, in her trademark chipper voice, “It is crazy the kind of influence you have when everyone knows who you are!” Abbie is about to see the proof positive of all of her hard work as an influencer, and we’re not talking about free earrings or 100 new “Likes”: She is on the verge of a lucrative deal with a makeup company called Nutrocon.  However, there’s Malice in Abbieland.  Her six “interns” are getting restless from too much work and too few rewards.  She’s got an active social media rival, “LisaXoX” (Desanka Julia Ilic).  She also has an overly enthusiastic stalker admirer, Justin (Mark Valeriano), who won’t take “No” for an answer.  And, despite Abbie’s popularity, the audience is reminded that the life of an influencer is not all lipstick and parties.  There’s real work involved.  After all, it’s not always easy to spend hours editing a video that the viewer swipes through after 30 seconds.  

What starts out as a smartly sarcastic look at the life of an over-the-top influencer, however, soon becomes an equally over-the-top crime thriller when Abbie’s home is invaded by a gang of four millennials (played by Janeva Zentz, Shantell Yasmine Abeydeera, Victoria D Wells, and Ian Richard Jones), who are only going by the names of “Two”, “Three”, “Four”, and “Five”.  They force Abbie to make a video against her will, take embarrassing photos of her, and threaten to topple the influencer’s hard-earned social media empire.  But why?  Is this a plot by Abbie’s rival LisaXoX?  Revenge from a disgruntled intern or follower? Justin? Eventually, we do meet the mastermind of the group, named… “One”! “One” eventually reveals the elaborate scheme behind the home invasion, which involves tainted makeup and manipulating the stock market, with a touch of personal revenge thrown in. The plot requires something of a suspension of disbelief from the viewer, but it fits perfectly well into the movie’s aesthetic: Even though The Influencer is mainly a crime thriller, it never deviates too far from the comedic aspects or take itself too seriously.  Along the way, the audience is treated to some deliciously keen digs at L.A. life and the spectrum of American celebrity in general.   An example is the gang of invaders, who are depicted as highly socially and environmentally conscious yet don’t seem to fully realize just how serious their crimes are.  Maybe they are distracted by their petty squabbling with each other: When one of the wannabe thugs insults another with “Who uses air quotes in 2020?“, she retorts with “Who wears sweatpants on a secret mission?!”   

Written and directed by Meghan Weinstein, The Influencer indulges itself with blindingly bright color schemes and superslick production values.  Like its main character Abbie Rose, it’s also highly stylized.  Among the movie’s indulgences are impressive paparazzi flash-style opening credits, which epitomize the “living in real time” vibe (or “mass A.D.D.”, as some would say…)  of our social media culture in 2021, when even reporting the weather is all about presentation.  As Abbie, the influencer who comes to the realization that she may be a sellout, Kasia Szarek is a revelation.  Even when her character isn’t in the frame, she is still the center of attention… and that’s EXACTLY what Abbie Rose would want. The Influencer is highly recommended!

The Influencer is available on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, FandangoNOW, through local cable & satellite providers, and on DVD.  Visit The Influencer | Breaking Glass Pictures (bgpics.com) for more information.

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